Hartley Brody

Does Your Resume Have a Thesis?

One of the few high school lessons that has stuck with me came from my 9th grade English teacher. “Every sentence in your essay should be somehow tied to proving your thesis statement,” she told me. “If a sentence doesn’t support your thesis, remove it.”

She then went through with her red pen, whittling down my 4-page report to a meager 1-½ page skeleton. It was a fantastic (but humiliating) lesson in persuasive writing.

Since then, I have come to learn what a powerful and necessary tool a thesis statement can be. It’s a single statement that provides focus and clarity, and helps the reader know what’s coming. It organizes thoughts in a way that supports the argument you’re trying to make.

But most importantly, it helps you – as the writer – figure out exactly what facts you should present, and which you should leave out.

Your resume is essentially a one-page essay entitled “Hire Me.” In order for it to be persuasive, it needs to have a strong thesis.

Crafting A Strong Thesis

As with any paper, your thesis needs to be very specific, and it needs to make a claim. “You should hire me because I have experience” is not a thesis.

A better one would be, “Due to my academic research in this field, and my demonstrated leadership, I am the best candidate for this job.” You want to provide a clear takeaway that makes your “paper” memorable and distinctive.

You don’t need to write it on your resume, but you should certainly write it somewhere so you can refer back to it.

To come up with a good thesis for your resume, make a list of all of the summer and work experiences you’ve had, and list three or four words that describe each experience. If you see words appearing several times, try to use those to form your thesis.

Maybe you can focus on your extensive communication and presentation experience. Or maybe it’s your passion for service and leadership. Find two or three qualities that you can really focus in on.

Once you find those words, use them to come up with your thesis statement.

If you’re only applying to a handful of job, you should come up with a unique statement for each of the companies you’re applying to. Try to consider what types of things they’ll be looking for in a candidate.

Then, once you have your final thesis statement, the rest is easy. Include all of the experiences and skills you can that support your thesis, and leave out the rest.

Don’t Just List Everything

Some people suggest listing as much as you can since you’re not sure exactly what the recruiter might like. Here’s why that’s a bad idea.

The person reading your resume is likely reading dozens – if not hundreds – of other resumes. They’re not going to remember the fact that you did swim team and extensive volunteer work. You have their attention for 30 seconds, maybe a minute.

I’ve had to read resumes before and I can tell you it’s really hard. The reader has to synthesize the entire thing into a sentence or two, and then indicate whether you’re a “yes” or “no.” If your resume is all over the place, it’s really hard for the reader to summarize it confidently. Make it easy for them and they’ll have a much better feeling about you!

Your resume needs to make it extremely obvious which characteristics you have the most depth in. That’s why a good thesis statement is so important.

Think about it, if you were writing a paper on the Great Depression, you wouldn’t just include a paragraph about art history, because you think it might be interesting to the reader. Focus on the point you’re trying to get across and leave out anything that distracts from that point.

Your resume is arguably one of the most important pieces of persuasive writing you’ll ever have to craft. You’re not just trying to get an A, you’re trying to get a job.

By giving your resume a clear and concise thesis statement, you’ll stand a much better chance of making a good impression and landing an offer. Good luck!